If you’re a leader thinking about making a change in your career, a new MBA looking to launch into leadership, or maybe a seasoned entrepreneur through acquisition you know that the road to identifying an organization to purchase is littered with the corpses of those that did not conduct thorough enough due diligence. In this series, Acquisition Entrepreneurship, I’ll tackle the topics that will make your journey on that road less risky on the way towards successful acquisition of a new entity. In this post, we’ll explore the Professional Advisors recommended to assist you towards acquisition… Enjoy!
Selecting Professional Advisors
An Accountant and a Lawyer are two of the most important advisors you’ll want to engage during your due diligence phase in acquisitions. You should look for those accountants and lawyers skilled in working with similarly sized firms as the one you’re exploring (Typically, those that work with smaller firms).
The accountant should have familiarity with smaller firm’s accounting practices, including payroll taxes, sales tax, and noncash expenses such as bad debt reserves or accruals for sales force bonuses earned yet paid. The accountant should have well established protocols to quickly determine if the company has accurately accounted for these expenses.
The lawyer should know which contracts are successfully in play at the acquisition and typical terms and conditions therein. This could be the same lawyer that assisted with creating your Letter of Intent (LOI) as well as prepares the final acquisition documents.
Professional Advisor Fees
While accountant and lawyer fees typically vary, depending on geography and especially with the purchase of an organization that can last several months to a year, you could expect that accounting due diligence will cost somewhere between $20,000 to $50,000. The reason there is such a large range provided is that the cliché “it depends” is in play regarding how much work needs to be done to understand the company’s true financial picture.
Legal due diligence is more tightly focused and includes the cost to prepare purchase agreements and related documents. The fees one can anticipate typically are in the $50,000 to $75,000 range.
One last note on professional advisor fees, specifically contingency. In other words, you may want to see if both accountants and lawyers will work on a contingent basis and therefore get paid at the time of closing so that you won’t have to come out of pocket during the due diligence phase. Keep in mind that some professional advisors will do so, some won’t work on contingency. The bottom line is that you typically get what you pay for so select wisely but don’t eliminate these all too important professional advisors!
Other Professional Advisors to Consider
In addition to accountants and lawyers, there may be other professional advisors that you want to bring in while conducting due diligence. I’ve hired engineers to come and inspect manufacturing equipment, IT consultants to inspect software development, Environment consultants to gage appropriateness of the wet excavation procedures, and Marketing consultants to ensure accuracy in market potential was accounted for. Depending on your entrepreneur through acquisition strategy and the organizations you’re considering, it’s important to bring in the professionals at time of due diligence well before you officially take ownership (Again, it’s better to walk away from the acquisitions table because of issues identified by professional advisors than to sit at it and go hungry for a period of time because you didn’t employ them!)
Acquisition Entrepreneurship is a great way to explore your entrepreneurial spirit and look to “buy then build” an organization (As opposed to the typically thought of entrepreneurial methodology of a startup). Regardless of the industry you’re looking in and the size of the organization therein, you want to ensure that you have the best team of professional advisors employed to serve you. This will help with risk mitigation regarding your entrepreneur through acquisition strategy.
PS – I’m typically asked what our Acquisitions Strategy is at Tip of the Spear. As such, we have summarized our Acquisitions Criteria here on our website: https://tipofthespearventures.com/acquisitions/. Please review and let me know if I can be of service.